This analysis of Indonesia's political history by a former Fairfax foreign correspondent captures the opportunity, anxiety, and regular chaos on display in this rapidly modernising country for the past decade. As its speedy economic and political rise continues, the author offers an authoritative introduction to the worlds third largest democracy.
Indonesia, a nation of thousands of islands and almost 250 million people, straddles the junction of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has presided over 6 per cent average yearly growth of its economy, to surpass $1 trillion. If this rate continues, Indonesia will join the world's ten biggest economies in a decade or so, just behind the so-called BRIC countries. The much-discussed recent documentary The Act of Killing revived some of its darker past, and Barack Obama's reminiscences about the childhood years he spent there briefly shone the spotlight on a country many Americans know little about. Yet as Indonesia approaches its 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections, its future is wide open. Though the largest Muslim nation by population, it remains a receiver of wisdom from the Arab world, rather than a messenger of multi-religious tolerance. Its pursuit of trade agreements with Japan and South Korea have burnished its economic ambitions, but its diplomacy is long on so-called "soft power," and short on sanctions or force. So what does the future hold for this pivotal place? Award-winning Asia-Pacific journalist Hamish McDonald's Demokrasi is an accessible and authoritative introduction to the modern history and politics of this fascinating country.